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Bipartisan Group of Lawmakers Introduce Legislation to Bolster Frontline Transit Worker Training and Retention

April 23, 2020
Press Release
Establishes a National Transit Frontline Training Center for Safety, Training and Development

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Congressman Jamie Raskin (D-MD) joined Reps. Anthony G. Brown (D-MD), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), and Jesus G. "Chuy" García (D-IL) in introducing the National Transit Workforce Training Act of 2020. This bill would establish a National Transit Frontline Training Center to invest in and train the next generation of transportation workers. The bill is also co-sponsored by Reps. Adriano Espaillat (D-NY), Don Bacon (R-NE), David McKinley (R-WV), Chris Smith (R-NJ), Michael Bost (R-IL), and David Trone (D-MD). Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) will introduce companion legislation in the Senate.

Public transportation faces challenges with training and workforce retention. With a median age of 52 for key frontline transit jobs, it’s estimated that more than 120 percent of today’s transit workforce would need to be hired and/or re-trained in the next 10 years. The novel coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated these issues, with hundreds of frontline public transportation employees diagnosed with the virus, and approximately 100 reported deaths. 

The National Transit Frontline Training Center will share best practices on how to respond in a crisis, work with health and safety experts to improve safety operations, train frontline transit workers how to properly use Personal Protective Equipment and provide distance and hybrid learning opportunities for frontline technicians and operators.

The Center will help both rural and urban transit systems, and award grants to nonprofit organizations to develop and provide transit career programs through partnerships and apprenticeships nationwide. 

“Our frontline transportation workers have made extraordinary sacrifices in order to keep this country moving forward during the novel coronavirus pandemic. Their efforts have allowed our medical professionals to care for the sick, transported vital supplies and continued to connect our communities in a time of social distancing,” said Congressman Brown. “Creating a National Transit Frontline Training Center will ensure these essential jobs remain filled with well-trained employees and give them the education and best-practices they need to stay safe on the job.”    

“Whether it’s during the COVID-19 crisis or a typical morning rush hour, transit workers are responsible for keeping our cities and our region moving. Ensuring these men and women have the proper training will help provide safer, more reliable, and more efficient service to our commuters,” said Senator Van Hollen. “I’m glad to work alongside Congressman Brown in this effort, and I look forward to introducing this legislation in the Senate.”

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, transit workers have shown us all that they are heroes. This pandemic has shown just how important their role is in our society. They have transported food, medical supplies, and workers to impacted areas to help everyone work through these uncertain times,” said Congressman Fitzpatrick. “This legislation highlights the importance of establishing a formal training program for transit workers. The work they do every day is essential to the success of our nation, and their training and safety is a huge part of that success.”

"Our frontline, transit workers are resilient and they keep Chicago moving, but the coronavirus pandemic brings to light the growing workforce challenges that the transportation sector faces. In order to keep our economy thriving, we must ensure our frontline, transportation workers have access to the best training and workforce development programs in the world," said Congressman García. "Our bipartisan legislation will establish a National Transit Frontline Training Center to ensure workers have the best training and best-practices in place to keep us all safe."

“Without a doubt, our national transportation sector and related industries will forever by changed by the novel coronavirus of 2019 (COVID-19). Transit employees put their lives on the front lines as essential workers during our national response to the ongoing virus,” said Congressman Espaillat. “We must ensure that transit workers are adequately trained and well informed of the new technologies and transit solutions that will be introduced as a direct response to this ongoing virus. I am proud to join my colleagues as a co-sponsor of the National Workforce Training Act of 2020. It’s our responsibility to ensure our transit systems and the employees who operate them on a daily basis have the skills and training necessary to keep our rails running.”

“Our nation relies on essential workers and transit operations during this difficult time,” said Congressman Bacon. “Establishing a national transit workforce training center would help recruit, train, and provide the much-needed safety materials and curriculum so that technicians and other high-skilled laborers remain employed and well-equipped to work.”

The National Transit Workforce Training Act is endorsed by the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), Transportation Trades Department and AFL-CIO.

“Preventive maintenance on a transit bus or rail car nowadays is quite different than it was just a few years ago, when a skilled mechanic could likely have made due with the contents of their tool box. Advances in computer technology have fundamentally changed the nature of the job, and electric buses are going to flood the market soon. Yet, training has not kept pace, and huge skill gaps have developed,” said Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) International President John Costa. “Apprenticeship programs established through labor-management partnerships are without question the best way to address skills training. We commend Senator Van Hollen and Congressman Brown for moving to establish a national transit frontline workforce training center. It is long overdue.”

“This bipartisan legislation to support the needs of America's transit and commuter rail workforces is more important than ever in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Larry Willis, President of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD). “Thanks to the efforts and leadership of Reps. Anthony Brown (D-MD) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), we now have an opportunity to make real change in the lives of hundreds of thousands of workers and the communities they support." 

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